A New Age in America: Donors and Diverse Philanthropy
In the last edition of Fundraising Connection, I discussed the need for fundraisers to consider a more diverse donor base in order to fully realize the potential of their fundraising efforts. Most fundraisers view diverse communities as despaired or underserved and do not recognize the growing wealth and giving potential that exist in communities of color.
According to a recent report by BlackBaud Institute for Philanthropic Impact, “Diversity in Giving,” nearly three-fourths of donors today are non-Hispanic whites, despite the fact that whites make up only 64 percent of the population. The underrepresentation of multicultural donors suggests that organized philanthropy is not doing an adequate job of engaging non-white communities.
For instance, African-American and Hispanic donors say they are solicited less frequently. Furthermore, they suggest they would give more if they were asked more often.
In any discussion regarding diversity, we must begin with a clear definition of the term. How a philanthropic institution or a fundraiser defines diversity can dramatically affect the way it addresses the issue or approaches the community. Each organization must develop a vision of diversity that fits its own particular context and worldview.
For instance, diversity across rural and urban lines might be particularly salient to an agricultural funder or diversity focused on ethnicity may raise the interest of a social justice or social equity funder.
Diversity: Inclusion of Social and Cultural Differences
To set context for this article, I will define diversity as inclusion of social and cultural differences, such as race and ethnicity. There are certainly other ways to define diversity, such as class, age, sexual orientation, religion and disability. However, I will focus on race and ethnicity, in part, because those areas of diversity seem to be where most fundraisers miss the
Rapidly changing demographics in the American population during the last several decades have launched a profound shift in the way that organizations now think about diversity. According to the Census 2000, less than 70 percent of the U.S. population is now Caucasian. More than 13 percent of the population is Hispanic, 12 percent is African American, nearly 4 percent is Asian and almost 1 percent is Native American. This means there is a tremendous opportunity for nonprofits to take a serious look at its multicultural fundraising strategy, or at minimum, begin to explore the possibility of developing one.
Multicultural Donor Behaviors
Understanding giving patterns and behaviors of multicultural donors is an important step in the process. What kind of organizations do they give to? Are there differences between varied ethnic groups and cultures? And if so, what are they?
Organizations can also become more intentional and sensitive to the cultural requirements and preferences among the potential donors they are cultivating. One critical point to understand is a one-time program or event “targeting” a particular community does not work. Nonprofits have to recognize diverse communities as stakeholders and make sure inclusion is practiced throughout the engagement. Below, I have outlined four recommendations to create a more effective outcome when engaging multicultural communities.
1. Make sure your senior leaders are present and accessible.
A key element to building any relationship is to establish trust and credibility. When building trust, the organization’s senior leadership must make it both a personal and an organizational priority.
2. Seek out community leaders to serve on volunteer and advisory committees.
Identify executive volunteers who understand the community and can offer the type of advice and guidance to help you navigate effectively. Peer-to-peer fundraising becomes a critical aspect to your strategy when looking to reach your diverse prospects.
3. Recruit staff from communities you wish engage.
Donors give to individuals who they are familiar with and who feel like they understand them. Organizations should also be conscious to make every effort to recruit staff members from the communities they are prospecting.
4. Cultivate relationships and be authentic.
To make substantial headway in reaching your fundraising goals with diverse audiences, make it your business to become genuinely interested in your donors, their culture and interest. Diverse donors, as all donors, want to be a part of a mission that make them feel included. Stronger bonds and connections lead to greater giving.
5. Follow tried-and-true giving strategies.
You do not have to reinvent the wheel completely when prospecting multicultural donors. Be open to advice from staff and volunteers who belong to the community, and be even more thoughtful about who makes the ask.
We have come to discover that we fundamentally have the rule book, roadmap, strategies and know-how to build relationships with multicultural audiences. There are some specific cultural norms to be aware of that nonprofit organizations need to follow to be most successful.
Fundraisers and organizations do their research, cultivate the right networks, have a partnership mindset and make your approaches with kindness, respect and sensitivity. It’s only a matter of time before your nonprofit can contribute to building an inclusive and multicultural donor base that supports the mission of your organization.
This Fundraising Connection article was published in the May/June issue of NonProfit PRO. Read the full magazine issue here.